By Tyler Harris

Many students, especially first-years, are often intimidated by their Professors. This is common, but at times one missed out on great opportunities due to being frightened. Students flounder the possibility of extra help on an assignment or test material. Unknown to students, professors enjoy discussion with their pupils about school-related interests or issues. As long as they are approached with decency and are shown respect, they will be more willing to help a student with whatever question or issue that needs to be addressed.


Each instructor has a different title and prefer to be addressed a certain way. Before approaching a teacher, students will need to make sure to call the teacher by the proper name. Do not call them by their first name. Usually the instructor will tell the class what they would like to be called within the first week of class or it will be on the syllabus. If not, the most appropriate title to call them is professor or Mr or Mrs (How To Talk To Your Professor, Dustin Wax). However, approach the your female instructor with caution. Many professors are not married or do no not prefer to have that title. The only way to make sure if this title is appropriate is to listen to how she addresses herself within the first couple days of classes or simply just ask the teacher.

When Talking to ProfessorsEdit

Students can talk to a professor from a range of topics. Students usually contact a student when they have a problem or question with the content presented in class. Also, Students approach the professor if a topic interested them in that session. The best conversation-starters are ones that are straight to the point such as:

  • Professor, I need your help.
  • Professor, if I were a student in your class, what would you do to get an "A"?
  • Professor, I'm not getting the kind of grades I know I can in your class; if you don't mind being candid with me, what do you think I'm doing wrong?
  • Professor, would you mind if I came during your office hours to get some additional help?
  • Professor, what do you think is the key to mastering this subject?

(How To Talk To A Professor, Academic Advising Center)

Usually after you ask them one of those questions, the process goes a lot easier. However, when meeting with your professor, know what you are going to talk about. It will be frustrated for you and the Professor and nothing will get accomplished if you do not know your purpose for being there. However, these are some of the questions you should avoid when approaching your professor:

  • "Will this affect my grade?"
  • "Can I still get a B?"
  • "I am an A student."

(How To Talk To A Professor, Guest Author)

This questions and statements are grade-oriented and shows that you are only concerned about your GPA, not the material learned in class.

The most common things discussed are matters concerning: course content, needing additional help, appealing a poor grade, concern about future tests, asking for an incomplete grade or other special exceptions, or interview your professor about their field of expertise (How To Talk To A Professor, www, These topics will lead you in the right direction and will generally address any concern that you may have. The result will be a positive one-on-one experience with your professor and a better understanding of the material.

Ways to Talk to ProfessorsEdit

There are many ways one can communicate with their professor. A student has the choices of going to office hours or meeting with the professor at other times; e-mailing, or telephoning his or her professor. However, the most popular ways are email and/or visiting in person. Many students prefer email due to its quickness and easy accessibility. Meeting in person or visiting professors during office hours is very inconvenient or very time-consuming to student. Even though you will get a hands-on approach and will receive more, clear information in person, the majority of students are more lenient towards on-line communication.

Office HoursEdit

All Professors have office hours. These hours are when they do not have classes and these times range for each instructors. The professors' office hours are mentioned when the syllabus is given. If not, there is no harm in asking the instructor. If not then, you will also have the opportunity to ask them what are their set times. If you cannot make the set times, then talk to your professor. Most of them are reasonable and will meet either after class or other convenient times. Even though these options are available, majority of students do not attend office hours because the times were inconvenient or they were sure of the content covered in class.

The most important thing about office hours is to make sure if they are walk-ins or only scheduled appointments. During this time, professors are usually grading papers, preparing for class, doing research, or meeting with other students (How To Talk To A Professor, Academic Advising Center). If they are not available during these times, most of the time professors are available to meet outside of the designated times.

A Student's IntakeEdit

The student interviewed is Raven Jamerson, a First-year Biological Science Major at the University of Georgia

If you have a question or issue you needed to address, would you feel comfortable with talking to your professors about it?

Not all of them. One of my teacher's classes is 250 people full. I know I'm not the only person with questions about stuff, So I am not going to wait around.

Would you E-mail your professors instead?

Yes, it is more convenient than to stay after class. Also, no matter where I am or how are schedules conflict, I will always get my question answered.

Do you attend office hours?

No, the reason I don't attend is that sometimes their office hours do not match up or coincide with my schedule. A lot of times, it's only a set date, and my history teacher can only go on Wednesdays from this time to that time. Well, If you have another class, you can't really go to office hours. So, it's not like Monday through Friday and you can come to them anytime. It's always a set date. If it's not in my schedule, I'm not going to take time and rush to go to their office.

Do you feel that if you knew your professors on a personal level, that would give you an advantage in class?

Yes, it will make you feel more comfortable with the class in general. You participate more, you will feel better about staying after class or going to office hours. I would if I knew them better, because of course, I will comfortable them. And with knowing them personally, I guess you kind of get better at the material, because you actually like the teacher and you pay more attention to them because of that personal association with them.

What should First-years know when approaching a professor? The DOs and DONTs?

The DOs: I would be straight-forward and respectful, because of course that is your professor. Don't waste their time with "around-the-world" questions. Be straightforward and know what you are talking about so they can give you the best answer.

A Professor's IntakeEdit

The professor interviewed is Professor Richard Neupert, a professor for the Department of Theatre and Film Studies and a First-Year Odyssey Seminar program.

Do you feel that when students talk to their professor it is more effective than just going to class and hearing the teacher lecture?

Yes, definitely! Although, I say going to office hours doesn't happen as much as it did five or ten years ago, because of internet I think. Not as many people come talk after class or come to offices. It is easier to fire off an email to ask. But yes, definitely!

Do you enjoy when students come to office hours?

Yes, up to a point. As long as they have a focused kind of a question. Sometimes at the beginning of class, I get students who just to talk about their favorite movie and stuff. And it's like well, what can I do for you?

Do you feel that office hours are important?

Yes! To me and students, yes. But they seeming less important to students.

What should students know when approaching a professor?

To a certain extent, for me, because I have 225 students this semester, even just clarifying who they are, what is it they want to talk to about. But in general, I think an awareness that we are busy and we want to help in anyway possible as long as the student is somewhat prepared. That's one of the problems with an Intro class, a lot of students come in and say they didn't expect this grade on their midterm and I'm just like, okay? How do we proceed from that, rather than saying "here, I have two or three more questions about my grade or about my exam." So, to be briefly kind of focused is to be important for students and it helps us understand how to be more helpful.


  1. Wax, Dustin. "Advice for Students: How to Talk to Professors." Your Daily Digest on Productivity and Life Improvements - Stepcase Lifehack. Lifehack, 14 Sept. 2007. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. <>.
  2. Guest Author. "How to Talk to a Professor." Your Daily Digest on Productivity and Life Improvements - Stepcase Lifehack. Lifehack. Web. 07 Nov. 2011. <>.
  3. Academic Advising Center. "How To Talk To Your Professor." Western Oregon University. Web. 7 Nov. 2011. <
  4. Jamerson, Raven. Personal Interview. 3 November 2011
  5. Neupert, Richard. Personal Interview. 31 October 2011
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.